Pale skin is often secondary to better blood flow, but it can also be due to anemia. Discover in this article which are the most frequent causes.When we speak of pale skin, we are referring to having a whiter complexion or less color than usual. In this case, it would not be associated with a change in pigmentation, but rather with a lower blood supply for some reason.
This situation can occur suddenly and sometimes require urgent medical attention. It is also common that it occurs gradually. In addition, paleness can be generalized or localized, depending on whether it is a situation that affects the whole organism or a focal problem.
When assessing paleness, not only will the skin be taken into account, but attention will also be paid to the coloration of the lips, the inside of the mouth, the inside of the eyelids and the palms of the hands. Let’s see why this can happen.
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Causes of pale skin
Pale skin has anemia as its main protagonist. But this is not the only disease with this symptom, although it is the most frequent. Here we are going to tell you about various origins of the disorder that require medical evaluation.
This is a fairly common situation where, by definition, there is a reduction in the number of red blood cells (blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen to the tissues) or in the concentration of hemoglobin (a protein found inside the red blood cell, whose function is oxygen transport). Both parameters can be measured with analytics.
The presence of anemia can be due to multiple causes, some of them trivial. It may even happen that it is a finding on the part of the doctor when performing a routine laboratory. But there will be other origins in which it will be part of more serious diseases, so it should always be studied.
Among the possible causes are, on the one hand, anemias secondary to bleeding or iron deficiency. On the other hand, alterations in red blood cells with a low production of them or due to excess destruction.
Whatever the origin of the anemia, the person will have pale skin in a generalized way and also the mucous membranes (lips, inside of the mouth, inner side of the eyelids). However, this situation is more evident in severe cases, and may go unnoticed in mild or chronic situations.
Syncope refers to the sudden loss of consciousness due to a transient decrease in cerebral blood flow. It can last from a few seconds to several minutes. It occurs at any age and the causes are very varied.
This loss of consciousness will bring about a fall due to a weakening of the postural tone. Recovery is spontaneous and always complete, which distinguishes it from other clinical pictures.
Always consult in this situation, since it is important to rule out the possibility that it is a seizure and not syncope as such. Also, it will be necessary to assess whether it is a simple fainting or a more serious situation.
The most frequent is the so-called vasovagal fainting or syncope, where the paleness will be generalized, preceding the fall. In recovery, the skin turns pink again from the circulation that is restored. It can be accompanied by sweating, blurred vision, and palpitations.
Hypoglycemia is the situation that occurs when the amount of glucose in the blood is low. The patient will present a generalized paleness that may be accompanied by sweating, tachycardia, anxiety, and tremors. In most situations it requires immediate attention.
Its causes are multiple, but the most frequent condition is secondary to the use of insulin in diabetic people. It can also occur in other contexts, such as alcohol abuse, starvation, and sepsis (generalized infection).
Hypothermia and frostbite
Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius, with the consequent failure of multiple mechanisms to conserve body heat. Almost all cases will occur in cold climates and winter months.
There is generalized paleness, cyanosis (bluish discoloration) in the extremities, and chills. At first, the heart rate increases, and then begins to decrease, and can progress towards coma (state of unconsciousness).
Raynaud’s phenomenon is due to exposure to cold, producing a transitory ischemia (decrease in blood circulation). It is usually more common in women
It follows a sequence that usually begins with the appearance of localized paleness, then cyanosis, and finally redness. It can occur on the fingers, which is usually more typical, or on the feet.
It will be important to consult the clinician, since it is necessary to make a differential diagnosis, since it can be an accompanying phenomenon of various diseases, especially autoimmune. It has been reported as a sign of lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Peripheral artery disease and intermittent claudication
The peripheral arterial disease atherosclerotic is by the deposition of cholesterol plaque within the blood vessels. Ultimately, this leads to blocked arteries and limb ischemia.
It can cause pain in the affected muscle groups that is relieved with rest, in the so-called intermittent claudication. Ulcers also form on the extremities with localized paleness and coldness in the lower limbs.
What to do if pale skin occurs?
Special attention should be paid if the paleness occurs suddenly, is accompanied by some type of bleeding, palpitations, low blood pressure, tiredness or any other symptom that alarms us. In those cases, seeking medical attention is urgent.
On the other hand, pale skin may develop in a chronic, progressive way. There, the most common cause is anemia, which gives us time to take action, but which cannot be delayed in its medical approach either.
Once a professional visit, surely, we will request an analytical blood to assess the status of red blood cells and hemoglobin. Based on this, the corresponding protocols will continue.